Wednesday, June 15, 2016

BASEBALL'S DYNASTIES AND THE PLAYERS WHO BUILT THEM Omitted Bios (Chapter 8 Philadelphia A's 1929-1931)

I really like this chapter because Connie Mack has always been one of my favorite historical baseball figures. He was such a great strategist and a kind, noble man. This was the last hurrah for Mack. After fielding some of the worst teams in the majors from the end of the Deadball Era through the 1920s, he re-built a dynasty. The A's knocked off the Cubs and Cardinals in consecutive World Series, but fell prey to St. Louis in a 1931 October rematch. Some of the greatest players of all time appeared in that Series, including Jim Bottomley, Frankie Frisch, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Cochrane and Lefty Grove. When it came time to shorten this chapter, I settled on pitcher Eddie Rommel since his days as a starter were long behind him by the time the 1930s arrived. He was extremely valuable out of the bullpen, however, and his bio is well worth a look here.

BEST RECORD: (107-45/ 1931)
HALL OF FAMERS: Connie Mack (Mgr), Lefty Grove (P), Mickey Cochrane (C), Al Simmons (OF), Jimmie Foxx (1B)



Rommel was born and raised in Maryland. By high school, he had grown to 6-foot-2 and weighed 200 pounds. While working as a steamfitter’s helper in a shipyard during WWI, he sustained a horrible burn on his pitching hand. This prompted him to experiment with a knuckleball. He eventually mastered the art and aspired to the majors.
            Rommel was purchased then released by the Giants shortly before the 1919 campaign. Connie Mack personally traveled to Newark to see him pitch for the Bears and liked what he saw. By 1920, the twenty-two year old right-hander was appearing regularly on the mound for the A’s.
            Rommel was a workhorse in the early part of his career, placing among the top ten in innings pitched five times. Between 1922 and 1925, he averaged 21 wins per year, leading the league twice. Doubling as a starter and a closer, he made more than fifty appearances twice in that span. As Mack slowly assembled a star-studded rotation, Rommel began appearing increasingly in relief.
            During the Athletics’ heyday of 1929-1931, Rommel was an important member of the staff. Though he started only twenty-five games, he made a total of ninety-two appearances. He compiled an impressive 28-11 record with 7 saves and a 3.41 ERA. He saw limited action in the postseason as his staff mates rarely needed relief. In 1930, he remained on the bench throughout the Series. 
            In his final season of 1932, Rommel won just one game, which happened to be the worst outing of his career. Looking to save money on train fare for a single make-up game in Cleveland, Connie Mack brought just two pitchers with him. It proved to be a mistake as starter Lew Krausse got shelled in the second inning. Rommel was brought on in relief and endured one of the worst drubbings in major league history, coughing up 29 hits, 9 walks and 14 runs in 17 innings. At least he had something to show for it as the A’s pushed across the winning run in the eighteenth inning. Rommel was never effective again.
            Released at the end of the ’32 slate, Connie Mack hired him as a coach. He worked in that capacity for two seasons then moved on to an umpiring career. He officiated in the American League for twenty-two seasons, presiding over six All-Star Games and two World Series. When his baseball days were behind him, he worked as a clerk in the office of Maryland Governor, Millard Tawes. He passed away in 1970.


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